Rough Theory

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Category Archives: Events

Capital Against Capitalism

So back in Melbourne after attending the Capital Against Capitalism conference in Sydney over the weekend. The event reminded me that I keep meaning to put up the actual submitted version of my doctoral thesis (the version that has been linked under the “Thesis” tab was the penultimate version). The submitted version of the thesis contains a number of changes, clarifications and improvements on the penultimate version, particularly in the chapters on the fetish character of the commodity, and in the discussion of Capital chapter 2, that will hopefully be a bit easier to read and understand.

The book will offer a much more substantial revision of this text, based on what I’ve learned from examiners’ comments, reviewers’ comments on the book manuscript, and the comments of many people who have listed to talks I’ve given since submitting the thesis, where I have been trying out alternative approaches to presenting the basic argument. Among other things, the book will approach the issue of Marx’s relationship to Hegel a bit differently – drawing out more clearly the way in which the achitectonic of Capital as a whole recurrently presents, and then undermines, idealist dialectical presentations – putting these presentations forward, only to undermine them a short while later with much more contingent historical explanations of the same phenomena previously presented idealistically. At the same time, I’ll focus even more strongly on Marx’s humour and the importance of understanding his humour if we want to unpack his argument – how much the work turns on vulgar restagings of the grand and elevated themes of the grandest and most elevated theory and philosophy of Marx’s own time. Although the book will still focus on these same early chapters, I’ll try to give a much clearer sense of how this sort of argument plays out at the level of the whole of volume 1 than I was able to do in the thesis. And I’ll discuss in a much more systematic way the relationship between this reinterpretation and the interpretations of major figures such as Lukács, Rubin, and Sohn-Rethel, using these discussions to develop more clearly than I think I do in the thesis, the stakes of the argument.

But until that’s in the world, I thought I should at least toss the final version of the thesis out…


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be meandering around, given talks at the following events in the UK and the US. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there…

18 February – London – Birkbeck: 6:30-8:00 p.m.

I’ll be giving a talk to the Capital reading group that meets fortnightly at Birkbeck. They are currently working on chapter 19 of volume 1, so my talk will involve a bit of regression for the group. I’ll be focusing on the opening chapters of Capital, as I have on the blog, trying to present a bit more systematically on how an appreciation of Marx’s presentational strategy can clarify how Marx understands the reproduction of emancipatory possibilities as an integral aspect of the reproduction of capital.

If anyone is interested in attending – or would just like to know more about the reading group – please email samdolbear @ for more information. The exact location of the talk will depend on the numbers expressing an interest in attending, and will be announced closer to the date.

22 February – New York – New School: 6:00-8:00 p.m.

I’ll be giving this talk as part of the NSSR/Lang Speaker Series, organised by the Political Theory Colloquium at the New School. My focus will again be on Marx’s presentational strategy – specifically, his sardonic sense of humour – and on the ways in which many passages in Capital that are often read “straight”, should instead be read as burlesque parodies of political economic theories. Political economy, for Marx, stops short in awe at the complex patterns generated by the reproduction of capital – assuming that intelligibility implies Reason, beneficence, or efficiency. Capital seeks to go beyond this awestruck reaction, providing a robust theory of the practical generation of specific historical patterns, while also demonstrating how the same practices that reproduce capital, also reproduce the potential for its emancipatory transformation.

Location: The New School, Room 529, 80 Fifth Ave., NYC

It’s possible to RSVP via Facebook here:, although it’s also okay to show up on the night without having registered. The event is free.

24-26 February – College Station – Texas A&M University

As I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, the Society for Social and Political Philosophy is organising a Roundtable on Marx’s Capital, with an eye to new readings, and new readers, of Marx. The event is open and free to all, and the format encourages in-depth presentations and discussions.

Location: Bolton Hall, Texas A&M Campus

For more information contact: Texas A&M Philosophy Department, (979) 845-5660. The event schedule is available online.

CFP: Capital Against Capitalism

Hey folks – sorry that I am again leaving comments hanging – trying to make the most of an extremely brief break for writing. I did want to post the attached call for papers, for the event Capital against capitalism: a conference of new Marxist research, to be held in Sydney on 25 June 2011.

More soon…


Capital Against Capitalism
a conference of new Marxist research
Saturday 25 June 2011
Central Sydney

It seems significant, and hardly coincidental, that the impasse that politics fell into after the 1960s and 1970s coincided with the eclipse of Marx and the research project of historical materialism. Social democracy, various left-wing melancholies and/ or the embrace of dead political forms has stood-in for these absent names. Returning to Marx, to Capital and to the various traditions tied-up with these names may present a way to cut across this three-fold deadlock.

We invite papers responding to contemporary politics from a range of historical materialist perspectives. We want to bring together the theoretical discussions and debates occurring in Capital reading groups, PhD study circles, and Marxist political organisations and networks. Our conjuncture – its manifold crisis – urges new analyses, new strategic orientations and the engagement of activists and academics alike on these questions.

Conference structure
The conference will involve two plenaries and four workshops. There will be space for 12 workshop papers about, or connected to, the conference theme. We are happy to receive proposals for themed workshops of three papers, with the caveat that we may need to alter suggested panels or reject individual papers to ensure overall timetabling.

In our opening plenary, Rick Kuhn will overview the argument of his new book, with Tom Bramble, Labor’s conflict: big business, workers and the politics of class (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Geoff Robinson and Tad Tietze will act as respondents. The final session will be a keynote address from Nicole Pepperell on the key ideas of her PhD thesis.

In all sessions there will be time for contributions from conference participants. To maximise discussion at the conference, each first plenary and workshop speaker will have 15 minutes to overview their paper.

Proposals for papers
Proposals for papers should be submitted by 15 March 2011 to Elizabeth Humphrys (lizhumphrys [at] and Jonathon Collerson (jonathoncollerson [at] Authors should also indicate whether they would be submitting a written paper for refereeing. Papers should be 1500, and no longer than 1800 words. Refereed conference papers will be published, potentially also as a special issue of an academic journal. We reserve the right to reject papers if we have too many to fill the allocated slots, or they are deemed unsuitable, but we will do our best to accommodate everyone.

Key Dates
1 February – Call for papers
15 March – Abstracts due
1 May – Papers due for refereeing; conference timetable released
1 June – Feedback to authors
25 June – Conference

Other details
The conference will be held in Central Sydney, in easy reach of public transport and in an accessible location. There will be a small conference fee, of approximately $20-$30 on average, to cover the cost of lunches and travel costs for the interstate speakers. Full details to follow. If you require childcare please contact us to discuss this by 1 June 2011. The conference organisers will not be arranging billeting, but please contact us if you are unable to arrange your own accommodation option. As the conference has no outside funding source, we will be unable to cover travel costs for workshop presenters.

Facebook event page:

Elizabeth Humphrys and Jonathon Collerson (obo the organising group)

Marx Roundtable: Update

Just updating an earlier post about the Roundtable on Marx’s Capital, to be held by the Society for Social and Political Philosophy at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, from 24-27 February, 2011. The scheduled participants are:

Harry Cleaver, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Texas at Austin

Roundtable Presenters:
Alex Anderson, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, McGill University
Arianne Fischer, Assistant Professor of Intellectual Heritage, Temple University
Douglas Hanes, Ph. D. candidate in Political Science, McGill University
Jamie Kelly, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Vassar College
Adam Moeller, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Emory University
Rafael Mota, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture, SUNY Binghamton
Patrick Murray, Professor of Philosophy, Creighton University
Nicole Pepperell, Program Director, Social Science (Psychology), RMIT University
Christopher Ruth, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Villanova University
Devin Zane Shaw, Part-Time Professor of Philosophy, University of Ottawa
Jessica Soester, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Southern Illinois University
Sarah Vitale, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Villanova University

William Lewis, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Skidmore College
Jason Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
William Clare Roberts, Faculty Lecturer in Philosophy and Political Science, McGill University
Hasana Sharp, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, McGill University
Amy Wendling, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Creighton University
Cory Wimberly, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas–Pan American

The event has a very nice format, designed to provide generous time for presentations and discussion. I’m looking forward to it.

As long as I’m escaping from Australia for a bit, I’ll likely head to the UK for at least a couple of weeks, before heading to the US for this event. If anyone knows of interesting happenings in the UK or the US in mid-February, let me know…


Over the past year, I’ve found that completing my doctorate resembled a process, rather than a moment or event. I submitted early this year, but that wasn’t completion, as the thesis still needed to be examined (in Australia, examiners are external). I’ve had the examiners’ reports back for some months now, and they required no corrections – but that still wasn’t completion, as there were various mechanical and bureaucratic tasks to complete before I could submit. I submitted the archival copies of the thesis some weeks back – but that wasn’t completion either, since a committee needed to endorse the submission… A couple of weeks ago, I finally received a letter (with a holographic seal, no less), telling me that I am now allowed to assume the title of “Doctor”. Arguably, this isn’t completion either – I still haven’t actually graduated – I believe that happens in December… But perhaps I am far enough along the process that I can now draw a line under it and declare the doctorate complete?

CFP: Roundtable on Capital

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, but have had limited time online – most will already have seen it elsewhere, but for what it’s worth…

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy is pleased to issue a
for a Roundtable on Marx’s ‘Capital’

Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, February 24-27, 2011

Keynote address by Harry Cleaver
Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of ‘Reading Capital Politically’

The SSPP’s second Roundtable will explore Volume One of Marx’s ‘Capital’ (1867). We chose this text because the resurgence in references to and mentions of Marx – provoked especially by the current financial crisis and global recession, but presaged by the best-seller status of Hardt and Negri’s ‘Empire’ and Marx’s surprising victory in the BBC’s “greatest philosopher” poll – has only served to highlight the fact that there have arguably not been any new interpretive or theoretical approaches to this book since the Althusserian and autonomist readings of the 1960s.

The question that faces us is this: Does the return of Marx mean that we have been thrust into the past, such that long “obsolete” approaches have a newfound currency, or does in mean, on the contrary, that Marx has something new to say to us, and that new approaches to his text are called for?

The guiding hypothesis of this Roundtable is that if new readings of ‘Capital’ are called for, then it is new readers who will produce them.

Therefore, we are calling for applications from scholars interested in approaching Marx’s magnum opus with fresh eyes, willing to open it to the first page and read it through to the end without knowing what they might find. Applicants need not be experts in Marx or in Marxism. Applicants must, however, specialize in some area of social or political philosophy. Applicants must also be interested in teaching and learning from their fellows, and in nurturing wide-ranging and diverse inquiries into the history of political thought.

If selected for participation, applicants will deliver a written, roundtable-style presentation on a specific part or theme of the text. Your approach to the text might be driven by historical or contemporary concerns, and it might issue from an interest in a theme or a figure (be it Aristotle or Foucault). Whatever your approach, however, your presentation must centrally investigate some aspect of the text of ‘Capital’. Spaces are very limited.

Applicants should send the following materials as email attachments (.doc/.rtf/.pdf) to by September 15, 2010:
• Curriculum Vitae
• One page statement of interest, including a discussion of a) the topics you wish to explore in a roundtable presentation, and b) the projected significance of participation for your research and/or teaching.

All applicants will be notified of the outcome of the selection process via email on or before October 15, 2010. Participants will be asked to send a draft or outline of their presentation to by January 15, 2011 so that we can finalize the program.

More information about the Society for Social and Political Philosophy here.


3 Quarks Daily is currently holding voting for a politics prize for best blog writing on politics for 2009. Among other things, the competition gives you the opportunity to vote for the inimitable Roger Gathman, for a post from his News from the Zona blog. Roger’s political writing is complex, layered, and generally requires a buildup of associative strands that span many posts and gain increasing impact over time – whether you vote or not, I’d suggest reading more than the one nominated post, to get a better sense of how the work builds. There’s been some fantastic writing at News from the Zona over the past year, and I’ve unfortunately been too busy to respond here – thought I would at least take this opportunity to post a belated pointer to all the things I wish I’d been able to write about before…

Congratulations to Nate

For those who haven’t seen, Nate’s daughter has arrived!

Immanence and Materialism Conference Update

So as usual in the term break, I’ve been ill, and I’ve also been buried in the usual process of pulling courses together for the upcoming term. As a result, I’ve been remiss in posting the promised update on the papers from the Immanence and Materialism conference, some of which have now made their way online at the conference website. Good discussions of the conference themes are also underway at Daily Humiliation here and here, and at Duncan’s blog. Benjamin has written a particularly generous analysis of my paper at No Useless Leniency – one which takes the time to explore some of the implications of the paper for speculative realism, which I didn’t have time to discuss at the conference itself.

At some point, I will have time to blog again properly… But for the moment, plenty of interesting stuff to read elsewhere…

Immanence and Materialism Conference Talk

Another talk below the fold… this time from the Immanence and Materialism conference – which proved to be a very good event, with a collection of excellent papers that, I understand, will soon be collected for online publication at a conference website – I’ll post a link to the blog when I have one.

As usual, the text below is what was said – more or less – at the conference. I’ll put up a more polished version with full referencing on the conference website shortly.

More soon, I hope… Read more of this post